A lovely day, and getting ready

When we decided to go ahead and cancel our old satellite service outright, instead of waiting until the end of the month, after finding how excellently the Starlink system was working, I was working on the assumption that we’d have all sorts of cancellation fees. So, just in case, I budgeted more than what we would normally expected the bill to be, on top of adding on the new Starlink bill.

We were in for a pleasant surprise. We’re actually going to get a couple hundred dollars for a credit. We do still have to send back their transceivers (not the entire dishes, as I was mistakenly told) and their modems/routers/whatever they’re properly called. The packaging should be here when the post office is open again starting tomorrow. I figure we’ll get our credit once they get their items back. Until then, it still freed up a large chunk of our budget.

What a wonderful sense of relief that gives us!

While we did try to stock up as much as we could, the outside cats are going through the kibble a lot faster than usual. Which makes sense. There isn’t much for them to hunt these days, and they will be burning a lot more calories in the cold we’ve been having. Tomorrow was expected to be a warmer day, so I was going to make an extra trip into the smaller city to stock up on more cat food.

Today, however, turned out to be warmer than forecast, and already we’ve reached the high that we were supposed to hit tomorrow. So I decided to make the trip today. At -17C/1F, it feels like summer! Even with the -26C/-15F wind chill, which is coming from the north, so we are well sheltered from it.

The outside cats were practically having a party!

I had a surprise this morning, too. As I was coming back from leaving kibble in the tray under the shrine, I was startled by deer running through the gate in the chain link fence at the south side of the yard! This is the first time I’ve seen the deer going through, while I was outside. Then, when I came around the house with seeds for the feeding station, the doe and her little one were there. They hung back near the compost ring, before finally running off into the spruce grove, but they stopped and looked back repeatedly.

When I was finally ready to head out, I took a peek around the corner of the house and, sure enough, they were back and eating the seeds! They saw me and watched for a while, but didn’t run off until I crossed the yard to the garage.

I’m okay with them being used to finding food at the feeding station. I want them to associate that spot with food, not our garden beds!

Speaking of which, the new wiggle room in our budget meant I could get a few extras along with the cat kibble. Though I didn’t get as much kibble as I intended. They were almost entirely out of stock of the affordable big bags. I only got three. If I’d bought the six I’d intended, there would have been maybe one bag left, and I wanted to leave more for others.

Along with a couple of bags of seed starting mix, I got a heat mat. One of the big problems we had with starting seeds inside the aquarium greenhouses (besides the cats constantly trying to get at them!) is that the house is just plain too cold. Using things like heated rice bags or small water bottles filled with hot water helped, but some things just never germinated. I’m pretty sure that’s the main reason the Hopi Black Dye sunflowers didn’t germinate until so much later.

I went through our seeds to look at what needs to be started indoors and when. Actually, there’s two ways we can look at it. Most seed packets go by number of weeks before the last frost date. The other way is to look at how long until harvest, then count backwards from the first frost date in the fall.

Our first frost date, on average, is Sept. 10. For anything that requires more than 100 days to harvest, the latest we should have germination is about May 4. If we want to give up to 150 days, we’d need to have germination by April 30. I would calculate when to start the seeds from there, using the days to germination information on the seed packages.

Which isn’t too bad.

If we go by the package instructions using our average last frost date of June 2, we have several dates to go by. Four weeks puts us at May 5, six weeks at April 21, eight weeks at April 7, and ten weeks at March 24.

Having worked that out, however, there are still going to be things I plan to start earlier. Some of these, people on my Zone 3 gardening groups have already started!

The main one will be onions and shallots. With so many varieties and so many onions we want to plant, space would be the biggest issue… except maybe not. I found this, from MI Gardener.

Based on that method, we should have no problem planting all our varieties in just the big aquarium greenhouse.

The problem with that is, it’s currently housing several aloe vera plants to protect them from the cats, plus my daughter’s two remaining orchids. She’d had them safely hanging in front of the living room window, only to discover it was too cold for them there, and a couple of them died.

There is still the small aquarium greenhouse. Depending on what I have for growing trays, I could fit all the onions in there.

There are a few other things that need to be started very early, too. Among the things that can be started at 10 weeks are the eggplants and peppers (we will be starting just a few of those, since only 2 people in our household like them), the Sophie’s Choice tomato (just a few of those), the Cup of Moldova tomato (lots of those, since they are for processing), the Wonderberry (just a few of those) and the luffa (probably all the seeds we have left of those). All of these are things I’m seriously considering starting much earlier. Especially the luffa.

With those, we might be able to fit them all in the big tank, and still keep the orchids with them, but I have no idea where we can put the aloe vera pots that will be safe from the cats!

Among the things we can start at 8 weeks are the rest of the tomatoes, ground cherries, Crespo squash, Tennessee Dancing Gourds, and the Ozark Nest Egg gourds.

I think at 6 weeks is when I will start the kulli corn seeds which, according the the tracking information, has arrived in the city and should arrive at our post office in the next couple of days.

At 4 weeks, we need to start the cucumber, all the squash and melons, the rest of any gourds we will be trying this year, and the hulless pumpkins. It would also be the time for me to start the kohlrabi, if I decide I will try those again this year, since direct sowing them has been a complete fail for the past two years.

Everything else we’ve got can be direct sown, some as soon as the ground can be worked, and others after the last frost date.

I’m going to need more soil, but that’s something we can pick up little by little, as we need it.

I have to admit, I’m really torn right now about starting things too early. I know there are people in our zone that do it every year and have no problem, and others have started winter sowing outdoors, using this method. We don’t have a lot of milk jugs, but I’ve been keeping jugs from the distilled water for my husband’s CPAP, which would do. They are that blue, transparent plastic. Theoretically, we could set this up in the sun room, which does get below freezing, but still stays a lot warmer than outside. That would actually be a good experiment for the kohlrabi, now that I think about it. With so many yard cats, plus the deer, I’m not sure putting the containers outside would be wise, unless we can put some sort of protection over them. In theory, we could drag over the covers we made for the raised beds. They’re covered in snow right now, and probably frozen to the ground! 😀

For any experienced cold-climate gardeners reading this, what do you think? Would I be severely jumping the gun if I start our onions seeds this early? Or some of the tomatoes, the eggplant and peppers? What do you think?

The Re-Farmer